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Indigenous Cultures of Costa Rica

Costa Rica is home to several indigenous groups, each with their own unique traditions, languages, and ways of life. These cultures have been passed down through generations and are an integral part of the country’s history and identity.

There are eight Indigenous Peoples in Costa Rica: the Huetar, Maleku, Bribri, Cabécar, Brunka, Ngäbe, Bröran, and Chorotega, and they represent 2.4% of the total population. Let’s explore some of the lesser-known indigenous cultures of Costa Rica.

The Bribri People

The Bribri people are one of the largest indigenous groups in Costa Rica, and they inhabit the Talamanca region of the country.

The Bribri have a rich cultural heritage, including traditional medicine practices, crafts, and music. They also have a deep connection to the natural world and their environment, which is reflected in their belief system and customs.

One of the fascinating aspects of Bribri culture is their traditional medicine. The Bribri believe in the power of plants and herbs to heal the body and mind, and they have a vast knowledge of the medicinal properties of various plants.

They also believe in the importance of spiritual healing, and use meditation, chanting, and ritual to achieve this.

The Bribri are also known for their intricate weaving and basket-making skills.

They use natural fibers such as palm and cotton to create beautiful and functional items such as baskets, bags, and clothing. These crafts are not only practical but also have cultural significance, as they are often used in traditional ceremonies and celebrations.

The Cabécar People

Another indigenous group in Costa Rica is the Cabécar people, who live in the eastern part of the country. Like the Bribri, the Cabécar have a unique language and cultural practices that have been passed down through generations.

One interesting aspect of Cabécar culture is their belief system.

The Cabécar believe in a dualistic worldview, where the natural world is divided into two categories: animate and inanimate. They believe that everything in the natural world has a spirit or soul, and they deeply respect the environment and the creatures that inhabit it.

The Cabécar are also known for their traditional music and dance.

Their music is characterized by the use of drums, flutes, and other traditional instruments, and it is often accompanied by intricate dance movements. These dances are used to celebrate important events such as weddings, harvests, and other significant milestones.

Preserving Indigenous Cultures in Costa Rica

Despite the rich and diverse indigenous cultures in Costa Rica, these groups are often marginalized and face numerous challenges. The encroachment of modern civilization and the destruction of natural habitats are just a few of the threats that these cultures face.

However, there are also efforts to preserve and protect these cultures. The Costa Rican government has recognized the importance of preserving indigenous cultures and has established several reserves and protected areas to ensure their survival.

There are also NGOs and other organizations that work to promote indigenous rights and culture.

Tourists can also play a role in preserving indigenous cultures in Costa Rica.

By visiting indigenous communities and supporting their crafts and traditions, tourists can help to promote these cultures and provide economic opportunities for the people who live in these communities.

However, it is important to be respectful and mindful of these communities when visiting. It is recommended to visit with a local guide who can help to facilitate interactions and ensure that visitors are following cultural norms and customs.


Costa Rica is a country that is known for its natural beauty and biodiversity, but it is also home to rich and diverse indigenous cultures. These cultures have lived in the country for thousands of years and have their own unique traditions, languages, and ways of life.

Exploring these cultures can provide a fascinating insight into the history and identity of the country.

With a growing appreciation and awareness of indigenous cultures, Costa Rica can continue to showcase itself as not only a beautiful tourist destination but also a country with a deep cultural heritage.

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